Problem Solving and Decision Making

Tough Decisions

This week’s lecture focused on problem solving and decision making. What are some of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make in your life? What techniques (as explored in the Week 5 reading) did you use at the time to make them? Would you do anything differently now? Feel free to explore decisions you’ve had to make in your schooling, career (past or present), family life and with friendships.

Your work should be at least 500 words, but mostly draw from your own personal experience. This should be written in first person and give examples from your life. Be sure if you are using information from the readings that you properly cite your readings in this, and in all assignments.

This Weeks Reading:

Problem Solving and Decision Making

Components of a problem

  • Givens: pieces of information that are provided when the problem is presented
  • Goal: The desired end state – what a problem solution will hopefully accomplish
  • Operations: Actions that can be performed to approach or reach the goal

Steps in Problem-Solving Process

What is Groupthink?

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that may cause a failure of a group’s performance. This is a trap that any previously successful group may get in.

The “groupthink” term was proposed by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972). It occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment” (p. 9). The alternatives are ignored and irrational actions dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.

Janis, Irving L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Janis, Irving L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Second Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin. Symptoms of Groupthink

There are eight symptoms of groupthink:

  • Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
  • Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
  • Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
  • Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of the “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
  • Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
  • Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
  • Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
  • Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

Remedies for Groupthink

Decision experts have determined that groupthink may be prevented by adopting some of the following measures:

  1. The leader should assign the role of critical evaluator to each member
  2. The leader should avoid stating preferences and expectations at the outset
  3. Each member of the group should routinely discuss the group’s deliberations with a trusted associate and report back to the group on the associate’s reactions
  4. One or more experts should be invited to each meeting on a staggered basis. The outside experts should be encouraged to challenge views of the members.
  5. At least one articulate and knowledgeable member should be given the role of devil’s advocate (to question assumptions and plans)
  6. The leader should make sure that a sizeable block of time is set aside to survey warning signals from rivals; leader and group construct alternative scenarios of rivals’ intentions.

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